The Unranked – Six players to watch

High School
Louisiana

Posted On: 01/11/18 4:31 PM

As the calendar has turned to 2018, most high school and college basketball teams have begun to focus on district or conference play. Individual player performances will be magnified during this time as the pressure mounts from game to game. Colleges, while in the midst of their season, will be visiting gyms across their respective states to find players or attempting to secure previous commitments. Players on the Prep Hoops LA list will be some of the first players evaluated by colleges to secure their talents for their institution. While those players will be hot commodities, there are a few unranked players that should definitely receive contacts as the season progresses.  Being unranked is not a bad thing.  If things go well for the rest of the season, these six players will not be unranked much longer.

Jalen Brooks/ 6’4″ Sr. / Woodlawn-Shreveport (pictured above)

Woodlawn is the #2 rated team in class 4A and Jalen Brooks has been their best player thus far.  Jalen has been a terror for defenses in the lane and behind the arc.  In games against Crescent City and Madison Prep, he made three or more three pointers.  He also added several put back layups in these games as he showed great rebounding skill for his slight frame (170 lbs.).  Against district rival Bossier, he banked in the go ahead triple and secured the game winning rebound.  Even during their two point loss to Madison Prep, Brooks out dueled UL-Lafayette signee Kobe Julien in points (29 to 15).  Because of his great play, he has begun to get much deserved buzz from colleges in the state.  If this high level of play continues, several D1 offers may come his way before April’s signing period.

Jalen Harding/ 5’11” Sr. / Benton 

Like his first name counterpart, this Jalen has been playing his best basketball as his senior year has progressed.  Harding  is a point guard who can distribute first if necessary.  He manipulates his dribble well enough to get players off balance and open up driving and passing lanes.  Jalen also makes solid passes that his teammates can finish with ease.  However, if he is asked to score, he can put up point in bunches.  In a district with scoring point guards like juniors Jacoby Decker (Bossier) and Tramichael Moton (Woodlawn-Shreveport), Benton needs Harding to put the ball in the basket.  As he showed during the Bossier Invitational, he can score with the likes of the guards aforementioned.  He put together two 30-point games against playoff caliber teams in Red River (#6 2A) and Southwood (#18 5A) and scored another 18 against 5A’s number one team (Natchitoches Central).  In one of those performances, he even put together a stretch of 16 straight points.  With his passing prowess mixed with his ability to score from different areas on the floor, Jalen Harding will become a hot name during recruiting time.

Maliq Smith/ 5’11” Sr. / Southwood 

Another player who has seen his game evolve from year to year is senior wing/guard Maliq Smith.  Smith has gone from a role player receiving spot minutes to a trusted senior starter and scorer for the Cowboys.  Standing at 5’11”, Maliq has been asked to defend small guards like Jacoby Decker to big guards such as Kendarius Wallace (Ouachita).  While he works hard on the defensive end, he still makes about 2 to 3 three pointers per game.  Maliq is a great help side/back side defender and leads the team in taking charges.  A school looking for a good catch and shoot player who can defend multiple players, they will be happy finding a roster spot for Maliq.

Matt Marx/ 6’5″ Sr. / Neville 

When I think of versatile players, Matt Marx come to mind.  This 6’5″ senior wing makes heady plays on the court.  He basically does everything his coach needs him to do for the team.  If it is rebounding Neville needs, he can get them ten-plus boards.  He has good ball handling skills so he can start the break when he gets a rebound.  He will not shoot many jumpers; consequently, Matt has a great vertical that allows him to shoot uncontested mid-range jumpers.  He will drive to the hole and use his height to get off a shot or get fouled.  Matt is just a smart player who can fill the stat sheet in so many ways.  He is that all around player that a team needs.  With his height, he is a player that will have suitors because of his skill set.

Trenton Ivy/ 6’4″ Sr. / Airline

If a college is looking for a big guard who can initiate and offense or get his own shot, Trenton Ivy is the guy.  When Airline needs a play on offense, they put the ball in Trenton’s hands.  With his length, he can shoot over small guards easily and taller defenders without much contesting his shot.  He has small guard, ball handling skills which help him get to the rim or create a shot for others.  In the open floor, he has enough speed to push the ball up and create pressure on defenders.  His wing span forces average to small guards to shoot over him.  He has some of the game of Airline/Arkansas Little Rock alum Josh Hagins, but not as polished.  Because of his height and skills, playing him at either guard position would be an attribute a college coach would love to have.

Jimmie Pittman/ 6’1″ Sr. / St. Amant

There are unique guards who can manipulate players with their eyes like a quarterback does defensive backs when they stand in the pocket.  Jimmie Pittman is one of those guards.  His court vision is his main asset.  He anticipates very well passing cutters open.  He has an outstanding feel of what his job is on the floor as a point guard.  He directs traffic in the half court and finds the right guy with ease.  If a defender plays too far off, he will drain the deep three. Jimmie punished small guards who do not play him aggressively.  This kid can be a true leader of a team playing on the next level.  If St. Amant makes a deep playoff run, he might garner some small D1 offers.

Players of this caliber will be picked up by a college team and will be able to contribute.  We will look at more of these unranked players in the future on Prep Hoops Louisiana.